2008 Ultrarunning Sponsorship: The Big Teams

The scope and nature of ultrarunner sponsorship has changed greatly in 2008. One primary cause of this change is the former 800-pound gorilla of ultrarunner sponsorship, Montrail, greatly reduced the size of their team. That change is in large part responsible for the significant trend towards sponsorship focusing more narrowly on elite ultramarathoners. Another trend among sponsorship is towards a balkanization of sponsorship – previously most sponsorship was through constellations of manufacturers banding together to equip their respective teams, where as now it seems that more companies are sponsoring ultrarunners individually – allowing runners to team up with the makes of all their favorite shoes, gear, and nutritional products. Though the magnitude of this trend seems to be lessening somewhat as a number of major sponsors ally with complimentary manufacturers to help outfit their teams.

After the break is a summary of the ultrarunning teams that will have more than a dozen ultrarunners in ’08. Check back next week for an analysis of the smaller teams and the following week for information on some major sponsors of individual ultrarunners.

[Please let me know if you have any corrections or additions to the following team descriptions.]

Montrail Ultrarunning TeamAs alluded to above, Montrail was the ultrarunning team for a number of years. Montrail was by far the biggest team and it would be hard to argue that it didn’t have the best stable of American ultrarunners. However, over recent years the team swelled to an unmanageable size – topping out at almost 90 runners last year. Such a team was unsustainable and Montrail (or Columbia) pared the team down to around 15 runners this year. According to Montrail, the current team consists of race directors, retailers, and teachers. In addition to runners Montrail didn’t re-up because they didn’t fall into these categories are some runners who left the team for financial or philosophical reasons.

As a side note, I was among the many who were not brought back by Montrail this year and I don’t have any hard feelings. For one, Montrail did offer a pro-deal to runners who were let go. (This year I’ve already ordered the Streak and Hardrock 08.) The only thing I wish Montrail had done differently in the process would have been to notify team members earlier than late-November so the team’s elite runners (not myself) would have been better able to secure sponsorship for 2008.

It is worth noting that for the first time that I know of Montrail is beginning the year as the sole name sponsor of the team. Until Columbia purchased Montrail back in the summer of ’06, the team was the Montrail-Patagonia team. After the Columbia purchase, I seem to recall that the team was briefly just the Montrail team before becoming the Montrail-Nathan team from late-2006 through 2007.

Runners returning: Eric Grossman, Matt Hart, David Horton, Sean Meissner,
Runners gained: None
Runners lost: Karl Meltzer, Andy Jones-Wilkins, Sean Andrish, Kyle Scaggs and many others

Complementary sponsors: nuun, Nathan, Clif

Full Montrail Team Lineup

Inov-8 Ultrarunning TeamLast year, Inov-8 made itself known as an ultrarunner sponsor, but it stepped up this year – growing the team to almost 30 runners. The Inov-8 team might not include many of the dozen or so biggest names in the sport, but it now includes a vast number of big-time ultra studs and studettes.

The Inov-8 team blog is another noteworthy achievement. Mark Lundblad, the team manager and blogger-in-chief, has succeed where previous efforts at ultrarunning team blogs have failed. At the Inov-8 team blog you can read team member bios, stay abreast of where team members will be racing and how they do, and learn about Inov-8 products. Check it out.

Runners returning: Anne and Mark Lundblad, John Basham, Steve Burton, Andrew Thompson
Runners gained: Sean Andrish, Kevin Sullivan, Clark Zealand, Wynn Davis, Akos Konya, Brian Morrison; [UPDATE 4/2: Andy Jones-Wilkins (just added)]
Runners lost: [Unknown – Please let me know]

Complementary sponsors: Honey Stinger, Salt Stick, GoMotion, Skirt Sports, Julbo

Mostly Complete Inov-8 Team Roster

La Sportiva Mountain Running TeamAnother company that has stepped this year is La Sportiva. Prior to this year, I knew La Sportiva had a team, but wrongly thought it consisted entirely of trail runners specializing in races up to the marathon. With the addition of 13 runners in 2008 including the likes of Karl Meltzer, Eric Skaggs, the McDowells and 9 others, La Sportiva and the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team should make itself more well known among ultrarunners this year.

Runners returning: Anita Ortiz, Buzz Burrell, Jared Campbell, Sara Montgomery, Derrick Spafford, Emily Baer
Runners gained: Karl Meltzer, Petra and Nate McDowell, Eric Scaggs, Thomas Reiss
Runners lost: Tony Krupicka

Complementary sponsors: Sugoi, Petzl, First Endurance, DeFeet, Julbo, F
uel Belt
, Headsweats, Kahtoola

Complete La Sportiva Mountain Running Team Roster

Patagonia Ultrarunning TeamThe Patagonia Ultrarunning Team has evolved somewhat differently than the Inov-8 or La Sportiva squads. Rather than growing incrementally from year-to-year, it seems to have slowly and steadily grown since quietly starting sometime after the Montrail-Patagonia partnership split. Heck, I can’t even figure out exactly who’s on the team now.

Runners returning: [Like I said, heck if I know!]
Runners gained: Andy Jones-Wilkins, Ty Draney, Brian Morrison, Krissy Moehl, Scott Wolfe
Runners lost: None (as far as I know)

Complementary sponsors: Black Diamond, Clif, Rudy Project, nuun

Thanks to all those that have helped me fill in some blanks and even to those who created new ones!

There are 39 comments

  1. Anonymous

    howdy,This blog is better than any of the print magazines out there!!Thanks for bringing the team summaries all together in one place. I don't race much but I like following what the fast folks are doing. Too bad the sponsors don't do a better job of reporting on their teams (I hope Inov-8 keeps it up).

  2. Trail Goat

    Wow, anonymous, thanks! Glad you like my blog. I, too, hope that Inov-8 keeps it up and that other sponsors utilize existing technologies to publicize their teams better. It's fun to follow the fast folks (though I also read many blogs of not as fast folks). What I think would be even better than the respective teams simply reporting their athletes results would be if the team pages/blogs had more training and racing tips as well as other stories, such as interesting places to run. Ok, I'm getting off-topic … I've long that this subject worth a post all of its own. In the mean time, La Sportiva has some excellent feature articles and frequent news updates, which I'm hoping will be more readily apparent in the future. Also, the Montrail blog has been updated more frequently of late.

  3. dogrunner

    Right. I have a ton of bookmarks and not a ton of time to go to all the sponsor pages (which take too long to load anyway on my slow dialup) but for years it seemed like there was not much; now it is a lot better. I now have a short list of blogs that talk about interesting stuff (running trails of course) and are also well-informed and well-written, and well-linked too (pointers to other good stuff). Anyway, I usually don't post comments, but I had to this time. That last anonymous was me, before I found my google password :)

  4. Anonymous

    you have a lot of time on your hands. k scaggs is no longer a montrail athlete. anton krupicka is gone from la sportiva. inov-8 have made the most off season moves. good for them and the blog is very, very good. patagonia didn't add anybody except ajw. the blog is super self serving and somebody needs to tell the person in charge that the blog is not there for inter-team communications. yahoo groups are for that.you seemed to have missed a few teams, bud. sunsweet prunes has a team. a team is forming centered around pearl izumi. nuun has a team. lots of opportunity for you ex montrail runners to find the sponsorships you think you deserve. ultrarunning is not about sponsorships. team kits. blogs. all sponsorship means is that there is a wider variety of trash on the trails to clean up after ultrarunners hold an event.

  5. saschasdad

    Goat,Kyle and Tony have very recently become NB athletes. I compare this to when Jurek moved from Montrail to Brooks – I think this new move for the young bucks is great for our sport! Hopefully Kyle and Tony will be as helpful to NB in providing feedback for making new and better trail shoes as Scott has been to Brooks. This can only be good for the whole sport.Supporting sponsors for Montrail this year: nuun, Nathan, and Clif.Good post, buddy. I hope you're doing well.

  6. Trail Goat

    Anonymous #2, sorry if you find my post, me, or sponsored ultrarunners repugnant. Refreshing to hear your point of view, though. With that out of the way, thanks for all the info. I started drafting this post two months ago, so I missed the Kyle's switch to NB and failed to make the textual change re Tony K when I heard he left Sportiva yesterday. A2, while I'm saving Sunsweet and nuun for a forthcoming post re smaller team, I hadn't a clue that there was any action around Pearl Izumi. Thanks again.Sean, thanks for the info. I'm a little run down – both physically and emotionally. I'm hoping to find a way to recharge my batteries this weekend.

  7. Brennen

    Great info., Goat. La Sportiva and Inov-8 really stepped it up with Montrail's curtain call.Look forward to your report on the small teams, which I'm sure will include Bad to the Bone, home of that speedster Mikey Mason.I'm really curious what Skaggs and Krupicka end up running in with NB. They have an unfair advantage with shoes, anyway; they should have to run with bricks strapped to their feet.

  8. Anonymous

    The former Vasque Ultrarunning Team is still pretty much together as well having lost a few members to other teams over the years (AJW to montrail and then to Patagonia for example). Still there are Jorge Pacheco, Jasper Halekas, Paul Dewitt, Jon Olson, Kim and Andy Holak, Rob Edde, Carol O'Hear, James Varner and others along with newcomers Jeff Rogers, Mark Gilligan and Rob Evans. I believe they are now being called the Ascent Trail Running Team and have a few lesser sponsors with no real title sponsor as such. I believe what has been important to them over the years is the team concept and the friendships they've created through the team. They may have a blog/website running at some point as well.

  9. Trail Goat

    Anonymous #3, thanks for the info re the Vasque team. Last year when I was out at Wasatch a gentleman who's name escapes me at the moment informed me the team had pretty much stuck together when Vasque dropped it's sponsorship of the team. Elsewhere (at the Wasatch Speed Goat blog, for instance), I've repeatedly cited the former Vasque team as a positive example of what an ultrarunning team can be. Though I was never on the inside of that team, you could tell that the team members treated one another a true teammates and friends. Glad to hear that the Ascent Trail Running Team has taken over where Vasque left off.

  10. Pete

    Really enjoyed reading this post, and its good to see some title sponsors stepping up in the wake of montrail cuts. Tony Krupicka actually just commented on his use of NB in his latest blog post, so it will be interesting to see how NB gets in the trail running game.

  11. dogrunner

    Tony Krupicka specifically mentioned the NB 790 on his blog, which I guess is the least trail shoe that NB makes? It will be interesting to see what he does to them.I think it is pretty cool to see so many teams on the list.

  12. olga

    Goat, nicely put together lots of info! Patagonia's blog and member's link is here: http://patagoniarunningteam.blogspot.com/. Interesting news on Anton and Kyle, I agree, with their minimalist approach I wonder what shoes will be developed (I really like Scott's/Brooks Cascadia). La Sportiva is really stepping up! I heard/knew tha Vasque continued to function together, and thought it was the best idea ever, especially in light of dropped Montrail members. But may be it's the idea of simply friendships that that is appealing…

  13. Trail Goat

    Brennen, thanks for the Ascent Team info.Olga, If you're looking for simple friendships, I'll be your friend whether or not we're teammates. :-) Others, I'll see what I can find out re the Pearl Izumi team.

  14. saschasdad

    Other Patagonia additions this year: Ty Draney, Brian Morrison, Krissy Moehl, Scott Wolfe. That's all I can think of right now.

  15. Trail Goat

    Anonymous the IV,ALet me take a quick look at my handy dandy ultrarunning program here… flipflipflip…. flip flip… flipflipflip… flipCan't seem to find Ms. Beck's name anywhere on the rolls, but I'm lazy Anyone know what company, if any, has the privilege of sponsoring this speedstress who recently tore up the slick rock? Mr. Answerman, I'm looking at you. Colonel. Yes, you.

  16. saschasdad

    I believe Susannah currently runs for Team Black, as she was wearing that color at WTC when she sped past me in a blur. Or she run sans sponsor. I'm not sure which.

  17. Travis

    Great information. I was wondering on Patagonia too. For a while they did not even have the link to their trail runnining apparel on thier site. It's back up now.

  18. Trail Goat

    Travis, first off, thanks for stopping by and for commenting. I would try to answer your question, but it looks like Mike already took care of that. That's not surprising though.Over the past few months, I've been amazed at how quickly and how well iRunFar visitors have answered both my and other visitors' questions. We're all fortunate to have such knowledgeable people answering our questions.Mr. Mason and others, thanks for helping out.Patagonia, Thanks for removing your trail running apparel from your website every winter. I don't know anyone who would brave the outdoors during such an unforgiving season.. and certainly never in your gear. Pay no mind to the picture of Travis running in shorts while there's snow on the ground. Anyone who would do that is just plain crazy. Fortunately for you, Patagonia, us trail runners are a sane lot…

  19. Jim

    wonder how long Tony will stay with NB as he's looking for the 205 race flat (Khalid's shoe) and is posting on msg boards etc trying to line up enough pairs..shoes to him seem to the be the same issue Peter Forsberg has with skates…'Goat – another good post as always…looking forward to the further previews…might have some stuff to get your feedback on soon…

  20. Trail Goat

    Anonymous of March 21, Thanks, I think. ;-) For the record, I'm a fan of Patagonia (especially its long sleeve half-zips), but the can't see the logic in this move. Jim,If the 205s are in short supply, Tony must be spending a ton of time on message boards with the number of shoes he must go through! Don't get me started with #$%#$ Forsberg… I'm a Flyer's fan.Glad you like my posts and previews. Would certainly be interest in giving other gear a thrashing and a good mud bath.

  21. Trail Goat

    Ed,Thanks for letting me know about the Rock/Creek team. I should probably clarify my intent for this post was to cover large teams that were national in scope. That said, I do plan to include teams that are more local in scope in either my forthcoming (once I'm not working into the wee hours of the morning) post on "small teams" or perhaps even a separate post re local ultra/trail running teams. It can be a bit difficult to break down some of the teams into categories. For instance, Go Lite sponsors a few runners… but is it a "team"? Is it a sponsor of individual runners? Is it local? (Most of its runners are in Colorado.)Ok, back to work for me. Thanks again for the info!

  22. Susannah

    Re: saschasdad/Team Black:"I wear black on the outside, because black is how I feel inside…" – The Smithsha. just kidding. I don't have a sponsor. Would like VW to sponsor repairs on my van, though.

  23. Trail Goat

    Susannah,We'll keep our fingers crossed re the VW help. ;-) Stranger things have happened here at iRunFar. Thanks for stopping bye. :-)

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